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Darius Rucker Gets In A New Swing With Country

of the Oakland Press

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Being on the road with Rascal Flatts has been an eye-opening experience for Darius Rucker.

“I haven’t opened up for anybody in 15 years,” notes the Hootie & the Blowfish frontman, who made a successful transition to country with

the platinum showing of his 2008 album “Learn to Live,” which has spawned three chart-topping country hits and

led to him winning the Country Music Association Award for Best New Artist.

It also made him the first black artist to score a No. 1 country single since Charlie Pride’s “Night Games” 26 years ago, and one of only four acts — along with Clint Black, Brooks & Dunn and Wynonna — to have their first three singles reach that summit.

But, Rucker hastens to point out, he’s still a rookie in the country realm, so supporting one of the genre’s established superstar acts has its advantages.

“The coolest thing for me is just going out and being in sold-out arenas,” says the South Carolina-born Rucker, 43, who co-founded Hootie & the Blowfish in 1986 and fronted its ascent to stardom with 1994’s “Cracked Rear View.”

“It just feels so different not having to worry about ticket sales or any of that stuff. I’m loving it right now,” he says.

Rucker predicts that Hootie, which still performs charity gigs, will reconvene for another album and tour “sometime down the road.” Now, however, Rucker is focusing on his second country album; he’s already had three recording sessions with “Learn to Live” producer Frank Rogers, yielding about a halfdozen songs, and he says there’s an entirely different pressure than he and Hootie felt following up “Cracked Rear View’s” 16 million sales.

“Country music’s all about the song,” Rucker explains. “I feel like if I give country radio great songs, they’re gonna play ’em, whereas pop program directors were always like, ‘Chances are, I’m not gonna play your next record.’

“I feel like I’m making a record to solidify my career in country music, and there are people out there who want it to be successful. That’s a big difference. I love it.”

Darius Rucker performs with Rascal Flatts at 8 p.m. Friday (Feb. 5) at the Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $30, $52.75 and $75. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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